IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Assimilation: The Second Generation and Beyond, Then and Now


  • Joel Perlmann

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

  • Roger Waldinger

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)


Assimilation of today's immigrants is one topic of current debate on immigration. Some observers assert that recent immigrants are unable to assimilate into U.S. society as easily as past immigrants were able to. Others counter that the pressures against assimilation today are not strong. In this working paper, Senior Scholar Joel Perlmann and Research Associate Roger Waldinger, professor of sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, argue that assimilation cannot be studied as an outcome alone, but should be viewed as a process, aspects of which are important in their own right. Perlmann and Waldinger explore how outsiders become insiders and the social closure, or exclusion, strategies that insiders pursue. The authors compare first-generation Jewish youths around 1920 and Asian youths around 1980 who sought admission to U.S. colleges and universities. When the share of Jewish youths at these institutions began to swell, a backlash occurred and deliberate policies to limit the enrollment of this group were adopted, especially at the elite colleges and universities. These policies were not reversed until laws were passed against discrimination based on race or religion in higher education. Sixty years later, the experience of Asian immigrant youths was different. By 1980 resident Asians had developed some political clout and had established social organizations that could be mobilized around the issue of discrimination. The acculturation of Jewish youths had proceeded rapidly because of the speed with which they acquired education and skills, yet structural assimilation had proceeded more slowly because of exclusionary practices. Because of the earlier struggles of the Jews against discrimination, and because of the Asians political clout, the Asians had more leverage within the institutions that had at one time discriminated against the new group.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Perlmann & Roger Waldinger, 1998. "Assimilation: The Second Generation and Beyond, Then and Now," Macroeconomics 9805024, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9805024
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 43; figures: included

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9805024. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (EconWPA). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.